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“The big issue is the access to the weapon itself,” a CNN anchor said about the recent Oxford school shooting. It’s been over 20 years of school massacres, and our legislators haven’t figured it out yet? IT”S THE GUNS – and also parents who buy guns for their 15 year old boy.

I’ve feel like I’ve been living in a war zone. Random gunfire sometimes at night, random explosions from demolition down the block that shake the house, and right across the street a crew is stripping the facade off an apartment building with a water problem. Generators buzz in my ear all day, punctuated by large objects dropping into the dumpster outside my living room window.

Add in Covid, and it’s non-stop stress living in the city. Our quiet, cozy cottage won’t be ready until sometime in March, so we just grin and bear it.

But hearing about another Parkland, another Sandy Hook, another Columbine tested my reserve. As an ex-school board member, I finally heard someone explain what happened on the day his parents refused to take their little shooter home. The day he murdered four students. Their child had been drawing violent, bloody images and searching online for ammo, so he was sent to the school’s guidance office!

The Oxford Supervisor, a guy probably making 6 figures, said that there had been NO disciplinary actions involving the shooter, so he never spent a day in detention. So what? Let’s face it, kids draw crazy stuff, but if teachers reported this boy it had to be pretty bad. I trust teachers. Of course, the school wants to avoid liability now, but why didn’t they alert administration then? If a Principal had been called, and not a Counselor, he would have had his bag and locker searched, and then the police would arrive and confiscate the gun.

His parents would have helped him check into the local juvenile facility – and four students would be alive today. Their parents shopping for Christmas presents instead of coffins.

If staying awake, worrying about kids and guns wasn’t enough, last night we had two weather fronts come through Nashville – we were trumpeted to bed with thunder, and the lightening was blinding. Bob got on his iPad and checked the radar, “Oh, this will be over in 10 minutes,” he said. Mind you, he knew I had a dream the night before about a tornado, but so far we were only under a tornado “watch.” Which means the wind and temperature conditions are ready and waiting to start spinning a vortex around you, so activate that amygdala! WATCH OUT.

We are currently puppy sitting the Bride’s Frenchie who looks like Winston Churchill, so let’s call him “W” or “Dub-ya.” He is one brave and chill pooch, who didn’t understand why Ms Bean was pacing and whining. Luckily, W’s snoring eased us into sleep, but when Bean started rambling again around 4 am, combined with wind and thunder, my post-tornado-stress kicked into hard drive?

I quickly went to my safe space.

Nope, I wish. We don’t have a safe space in this city farmhouse flanked by an apartment construction zone with flapping tarps and yellow crime tape strung like party lights.

What I DID do at 4:03 am was gather the pups and head downstairs for some coffee and local TV, and lo and behold, our tornado watch had turned into a “Tornado Warning!” But before you start worrying, don’t cry for me since I’m here to tell the tale. This second storm was moving fast, about 55 MPH, and the warning didn’t include our county. Two adjacent counties had debris flying around, so the cute weather girl in a tight-fitting dress told us to stay vigilant. Because a “warning,” unlike a watch, means they’ve spotted a tornado!

I wish we could calibrate the likelihood of a mass shooting as well as we follow storms to predict tornadoes. If you’re worried about a student searching for ammo, you watch him. And if he starts drawing bloody, violent images, you warn the right people. Better yet, don’t buy metal detectors for our schools and ask our teachers to carry weapons. Pass real gun control legislation. Enough is enough.

Warning: Street Closed

Before and after our Zoom Pilates on Wednesday, I made the mistake of listening to the SCOTUS discuss Mississippi’s attempt to uphold a ban on abortions at 15 weeks.

At first, I was happy that Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked if this was not, after all, a religious question. “YES” I yelled at poor Bob. Don’t let these Christian conservatives determine the argument; this is not about when life begins – it’s about when certain groups of people believe that life begins. Besides, some Catholics and Jews (and Sikhs and Muslims and Hindus and….. and…..) would answer that question differently. The separation of church and state is fundamental to our democracy.

In reality, this court case is about the government trying to control a woman’s body.

“The right of a woman to choose, the right to control her own body, has been clearly set since Casey and never challenged,” Justice Sotomayor said, referencing the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which affirmed Roe, in response to comments by Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart.

“You want us to reject that line of viability and adopt something different.”

I was impressed. I was hopeful. Then Justice Amy Coney Barrett started to ask questions. And she was wondering if so-called “Safe Haven Laws” wouldn’t suffice for a woman experiencing an unwanted pregnancy.

What exactly was she getting at? It dawned on me that she was referring to a theoretical mother carrying to term, and then just dropping her baby off at the local fire department, like a Door Dash order, no questions asked.

Having both biological and adopted children herself, Barrett spoke as if she had a direct line to God, which she probably thinks she has! Whatever could be the problem with carrying and delivering a baby, only to immediately give it up for adoption? She thinks that would be the easiest choice, which means either she’s been totally indoctrinated by her fundamentalist faith, or perhaps she is exhibiting psychopathic thinking. And she sounds so sweet…

Yes, choosing to have an abortion isn’t easy. And it’s even harder if you happen to be marginalized to begin with – a woman loses the possibility of a child – one she was too young or too poor to raise… or maybe one that was a result of being raped. Or maybe she is carrying a child who would never survive because of genetic abnormalities. But being forced to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth, and then relinquish a child to adoption, let’s just say that’s another kind of hell. It’s a Handmaid kinda hell.

“The trauma doesn’t just affect mothers, either. Researchers have a term for what children who are adopted, even as infants, may suffer from later in life: “relinquishment trauma.” The premise is that babies bond with their mothers in utero and become familiar with their behaviors. When their first caretaker is not the biological mother, they register the difference and the stress of it has lasting effects.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/03/opinion/adoption-supreme-court-amy-coney-barrett.html

My sister Kay recently told me how hard it was for her to travel to my foster parents’ house during our Year of Living Dangerously, and stay with me for the summer while I got used to my new caretaker/parents. The Flapper slept and cared for my father in the dining room after his brain surgery, He was only 47 when he died. My crib was in Kay’s room, she was just 14 years old at the time. Still, she always told me she loved me and that I was her real baby doll. I can still hear the pain in her voice when she talks about leaving me in Dover, NJ and returning to Scranton.

Did I suffer from relinquishment trauma? Certainly my sister and the Flapper did. And the mother of Bob’s newly discovered niece absolutely felt that loss deeply so many years ago. Her name is also Kay, a woman who has become a friend, who searched for her child (Dicky’s daughter) for years after her conservative, religious parents sent her away to give birth over 50 years ago. She would never forget her daughter.

Maybe I held on too tight to my children. Certainly my early life as a foster child factored into my choice to stay at home and raise them, to give them a sense of belonging. But I also wanted my daughter to feel as if her future was unlimited. She could be free to do anything she wanted! And she is currently working at steering her group into granting paid parental leave for everyone, male and female, doctors and NPs. I’m so dang proud of her.

We won’t know the outcome of the SCOTUS case until next June probably. We have a lot of work to do until then, to fix gerrymandering and the filibuster, to assure the right to vote, to pass gun control laws so that our children and grandchildren won’t have to fear their school rooms. But we are Americans and we can do hard things.

Choose Light

The demolition of our kitchen has begun.

We’ve ordered the appliances, and they should be delivered in January sometime. I’ve heard that cabinets are one of those things stuck in a supply chain somewhere, so we have a choice – bespoke (custom build), or DIY in-a-box (Ikea)? Only the nearest Ikea is in Atlanta. And I’ve been playing with Benjamin Moore paint colors on their website, it’s easy and incredibly intuitive! https://www.benjaminmoore.com/en-us/personal-color-viewer/kitchen

My sister Kay told me to try “Kitten Whiskers” on walls because of the way the light reflects back on your room. I may have to paint a sample swath and watch it over time. She said it’s a very pale lavender, yet all I can see is beige. When did cottage kitchen design become my ballyhoo?

Ever since I read that all politics are local, I’ve experienced a sense of dread. GOP legislators have spent the last decade redrawing districts to their advantage, so that they can win more seats. Even if a state is divided equally between the two parties, like say Ohio, out of 99 seats in the House, Republicans hold 64! Ah, the power of gerrymandering.

I first heard about “sunshine laws” when I was elected to a NJ school board.

“Sunshine laws are regulations requiring transparency and disclosure in government or business. Sunshine laws make meetings, records, votes, deliberations, and other official actions available for public observation, participation, and/or inspection.”

There were 48 Million K-12 students in our country and we spent over 752 Billion in 2019. We deserve to know how that money is spent. The journalist in me knew about the Freedom of Information Act passed in the 70s, but I didn’t know how discretely it could shape both small and large institutions.

Unless of course you happen to be the former twice-impeached-president who rarely told the truth and made up his own rules as he went along. Will we ever see his taxes? Sunshine laws are an effort to replace the stereotypical dark-smoky-back room, with a light-infused, open and honest discourse.

We all thought electing Biden would fix everything. I wanted so much to relax, and feel like our government is back on an even keel. We were moving forward with vaccinations and treatments for Covid. The Grands got their second shot. Things were looking up! I am grateful we passed a semi-bi-partisan infrastructure bill, but our democracy could fall apart if we continue to ignore the many voter suppression bills being passed at local levels:

Our democracy works best when all eligible voters can participate and have their voices heard. Suppression efforts range from the seemingly unobstructive, like strict voter ID laws and cuts to early voting, to mass purges of voter rolls and systemic disenfranchisement. These measures disproportionately impact people of color, students, the elderly, and people with disabilities. And long before election cycles even begin, legislators redraw district lines that determine the weight of your vote.

https://www.aclu.org/news/civil-liberties/block-the-vote-voter-suppression-in-2020/

If you do nothing else this week, please call your senators and tell them they must reform the filibuster (which was never in the constitution btw) in order to pass John Lewis’ Voting Rights Advancement Act. The “For the People Act” that passed through the House, must NOW be signed into law.

I know I know. You’re busy planning for Christmas. You’re so over wearing face masks, and want to stop living in fear of a new variant micro organism in the air, something you can’t see. But please, look at the elephant in our collective room. if you are lighting a Hanukkah menorah this week, how hard can it be to make a phone call? If you are buying Christmas presents online today, give our country a gift and write an email to your senators. https://contactsenators.com/senator-phone-numbers

What kind of party wants to make it harder to vote? So much depends on this. We cannot let the minority party pull us back into the dark ages. Shine a light on overt gerrymandering and voter suppression. Start this holiday season off by demanding equal voting rights for all Americans. Choose light, and your children and grandchildren will thank you.

Red Friday

Why is today “Black” Friday anyway? Red makes more sense – red means stop and think before you proceed, it could also denote a particular political party. But I won’t go there. In fact, I went absolutely nowhere today because I was so full from Thanksgiving dinner I could barely move. Bob tried out a different method for cooking the turkey and it was delicious drenched in herby butter. And the Bride outdid herself on vegetable sides.

My daughter has also lured me back to Facebook by tagging me in a neighborhood group she belongs to called, “Buy Nothing Project; Give Ask Gratitude.” I get the idea. We need to curb our rabid consumer addiction and reuse and repurpose what we have. But since we are doing a LOT of renovation work on our new/old Southern Cottage before we move in, I decided to post its old kitchen appliances and a washer and dryer on the site.

Starting this ‘season of giving’ off with a bang warmed my heart. Why ask Habitat to come pick up our old appliances when there may be someone right down the street who had a washer break last week?

Now, about our new house – it’s cute as the dickens.

ALL ONE LEVEL, south facing, with lots of windows and a cathedral ceiling family room addition in the back. Our eyes were open when we bought it, knowing how much work we would need to put in, including foundation work since nothing is plumb. There’s a larder in the kitchen and the backyard is huge. Most of these “Usonian” cottages are being bought up by Nashville developers who promptly tear them down and build three-level monstrosities. We are lucky to save this one.

My favorite architect is Frank Lloyd Wright, and this house was built during his prolific time period before and after WWII (1936-1959) when he wanted to design at a price point for everyman ($5,000). Even though Wright did not design our house, it feels Usonian in its nature.

“The word “Usonian” (United States of North America) is attributed to writer James Duff Law, who wrote in 1903, “We of the United States, in justice to Canadians and Mexicans, have no right to use the title ‘Americans’ when referring to matters pertaining exclusively to ourselves.” … “Design elements for these single-story homes include: flat roofs with generous overhangs and cantilevered carports (Wright coined the term carport, and favored these over garages for efficiency), built-in furniture and shelving, tall windows that softened the boundary between interior and exterior, radiant heat embedded in a concrete slab gridded floor, skylights, a sense of flow from one room to the next, and a central hearth. Floor plans dispensed with basements, attics, and, in smaller models, formal dining rooms to maximize efficiency.” 

https://metropolismag.com/projects/seven-hidden-gems-from-frank-lloyd-wrights-usonian-period/

We do have a dining room, but it was opened to a formal living room in a previous renovation. We still have the original red oak floors, but the fireplaces have been covered up. Our kitchen is smack in the middle of the house, and though some would like to tear down the larder (pantry cabinets), thereby opening the kitchen to the dining room, and bringing in more natural light, I don’t agree.

Don’t get me wrong, I like an “open concept,” but I tend to be more old school. Actually, I love our tiny kitchen and plan on keeping it as a separate space.

I’ve skipped a day to Small Business Saturday. Now here’s a holiday shopping concept I CAN get behind! Bob and I will stroll the neighborhood on this sunny afternoon and maybe visit a food truck for lunch.

Today the Grands are getting their second Covid vaccine!!! But dang, now we’ve learned about another variant courtesy of South Africa, “Omicron.” There are already several cases of the new variant in Europe, and Dr Fauci has said it is already probably here in the US, which is disheartening. I asked Bob

“When would this go away?”

We talked about vectors (a virus usually doesn’t want to kill its host) and Polio. We’re going to have to immunize the whole world in order to make Covid manageable, like we did with Polio. That’s 7 Billion people. Even with that, we may just have to get a jab in the arm every year – maybe Moderna could figure out how to combine it with our yearly flu vaccine?

Meanwhile, if you’re celebrating Chanukah, spoiler alert, it starts tomorrow night!! HELP, latkes with a side of leftover turkey? And dressing, cause this year I made the cornbread dressing Southern style, outside of the bird. I wish you all love and light, and maybe more mindful gelt spending this year?

Migration

There are two beautiful blue jays chowing down at the dove diner outside my window. A cardinal had swooped in earlier for a bite; a brilliant red sign that today would be a good day. And of course there’s always Kevin the squirrel, the ringleader who determines who can stay and who can go. My city garden is teeming with wildlife adventure; with dozens of sparrows, finches and mockingbirds flocking to the feeder that hangs above the tree stump, aka the 24 hour all/you/can/eat dove diner.

I’ve been wondering why pigeons have become pariahs in many cities. A photographer I follow on Instagram (Quarantine in Queens) posted a picture of a stately pigeon sitting on a lion’s head at the NYC Public Library, and he called the pigeon “dirty.” I was offended. Isn’t a pigeon just like a dove, only bigger? Plus one of my favorite children’s books is “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.” I loved reading all about this insistent, toddleresque, willful pigeon to my Grands when they were toddlers.

In fact as it turns out, pigeons and doves are related. They are part of a large family of birds called Columbidae, which consists of more than 300 species!

 Paul Sweet, the collection manager for the department of ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History, says the difference is more linguistic than taxonomic. The word dove is a word that came into English from the more Nordic languages, whereas pigeon came into English from French.”

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/554182/what-is-difference-between-pigeons-and-doves

The word “dove’ developed from our Viking ancestors, and “pigeon” from the Normans. People have trained homing pigeons, and kept dovecotes for centuries – which is just a fancy bird house at the top of a structure for pigeons! Despite my bird-feeding mishap of a few weeks ago, I love to start the day by throwing out seeds and nuts for all the ground feeding birds, too big to perch on the feeder.

Is it ironic that I now have a really BIG bird defrosting in my refrigerator? The President may have pardoned Peanut Butter and Jelly, but our Butterball turkey will still preside at the Bride and Groom’s Thanksgiving table this week. I’ll be making my traditional cornbread stuffing and butternut squash casserole. I’m also game to try something new, like ‘fried sage salsa verde,’ since our sage is still growing abundantly.

The Groom’s parents will be flying in from Virginia with Aunt J, and unlike last year we’ll all gather inside! We are all of us boosted with Covid vaccines, plus flu… and even the Grands have had their first shots. I’m still one of very few people in a store with a mask on, and I’ll continue to be masked until mid-December when our babies are fully immunized – unlike a certain quarterback named Aaron Rodger. To me words matter. The truth matters. The health of my family and friends matter. And yes, even perfect strangers matter.

The Bride saw a very sick patient yesterday with Covid. I asked her if their vaccination status affected her medical care, and she thought for a moment. “No,” she told me. She sometimes forgets to ask because it’s assumed, but now they must ask for the hospital record and the CDC I suppose. I was glad that my daughter’s empathy has withstood these ‘trying times.’ I’m not sure that mine would have.

I have no advice for how to deal with relatives you may see this holiday season. You know, the ones who did their own research, wanted to wait and see, or some such nonsense? Put the children’s table in the garage? Put the unvaccinated in the garage? But if you’re migrating or flying south for turkey day, or feathering your nest and staying put, I wish you a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving. And I have some big news…

WE BOUGHT AN OLD HOUSE.

Standing next to the larder inspecting some new beams

Ground Control

It’s been a quiet, cold weekend and I’ve been noticing that Ms Bean doesn’t like to leave my side.

My rescue dog is almost 14 and doesn’t see or hear very well anymore. Besides fireworks and the usual bombs demolition going off in the neighborhood, she will only react when I sneeze. For some reason, sneezing makes her get up slowly, and walk into another room. The Vet tells us she’s doing fine for her age, but going up the stairs is an effort and her daily walks are getting shorter – like the days.

Still, when I have a little “song and dance” party by myself, Bean will rally. We were watching the CBS Adele concert last night, and she was hopping along with me to the music. The only other time she hops is just before I set down her dinner.

I loved the interruptions of the Oprah interview with Adele throughout the concert at the Griffith. Watching the sunset over Hollywood, then switching to the green and white setting in Oprah’s California rose garden was magical. It felt intimate, just two divas catching up. I had some idea Adele had been married, but no idea she was now divorced with a son. Losing 100 pounds by training and lifting weights? Not really, pretty sure I just thought she looked great. Her album “30” is like every other album title – it’s her age when she wrote the songs.

“It was exhausting, trying to keep going with it. You know, the process, the process of a divorce, the process of being a single parent, the process of not seeing your child every single day wasn’t really a plan that I had when I became a mum. The process of arriving for yourself every single day, turning up for yourself every single day, and still running a business… I felt like not doing it anymore.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/entertainment-arts-59291000

We’ve all felt like this at times in our lives. You start to wonder about your purpose, you look around at your life and you wonder how in the heck you got here. This was not THE plan you had, like Adele not planning to disrupt her child’s life with a divorce. Because her father had been an abusive, absent alcoholic, her plan was to keep a nice, cozy nuclear family humming along. But that effort was killing the British Grammy winner, and she needed to break free.

Let’s take our American Songstress Nashville version of superstardom, Taylor Swift, who also released an album this week.

Tay Tay is 32, only one year younger than Adele. Of course, I still think of Swift as a twenty-something in cowgirl boots. The Love Bug is positively in love with her! Her trajectory from country starlet to pop sensation was rather bumpy. But I remember when the news hit, about losing all her master recordings to some private equity firm – they sold for 300 Million last November.

Having raised a musician who weathered the sea change at the same time in the music business, I could empathize with Swift’s loss. It wasn’t just the money, it was about control. It was about mastering your own life, like Adele who thought that a marriage would bring her happiness. Both singers write deeply personal, emotional lyrics. Only Swift was bullied and shortchanged not by a husband, but by Scooter Braun, a music tycoon who bought her previous label and sold the rights to her last six albums.

“Swift is a calculating business owner who already recorded two albums during the lockdown simply because it was fun and she didn’t have to spend two years in Lover album promotion cycle. Why wouldn’t Swift take time to re-record her material? Imagine a private equity firm not doing enough due diligence on one of the world’s most surveilled super stars to think Swift wouldn’t take advantage of the time inside to maintain her artistic integrity. The woman once wrote a song about Katy Perry poaching employees!

One hedge fund manager who was approached to buy the catalog told FT: “To extract maximum value from music assets you absolutely need, if not co-operation from the artist, you at least need them to not be actively angry.”

https://jezebel.com/imagine-thinking-taylor-swift-wouldnt-re-record-her-son-1848043235

The artist must not be actively angry so you can commodify them. But anger can be a very good thing. Taylor took time during the lockdown to produce RED (Taylor’s Version), and I may have to run out to Target to buy a CD, if there are any left! This album is breaking Spotify records, as Braun’s hedge fund is declining. Good on you girl.

Adele is an outlier. She signed a 90 Million Euro (130M dollars) deal with Sony/Columbia a few years back and she can write her own ticket. Almost seven years ago, she waited to release her “25” album on streaming services until as many CDs as possible could be sold. This time her album “30” was simultaneously released on vinyl, CD and streaming. Despite not owning her masters, Adele has skyrocketed to super stardom. She took a more traditional musical route, and transformed it into her own.

I still remember the first time the Bride played “Rolling in the Deep” for me. “We could have had it all.” Her voice is simply devastatingly beautiful. Adele appeals to almost every age, she is a more mature Taylor. We are all learning to “process” a new normal these days; as Grandma Ada would say, we are all in transition.

Outings

This week it seems like some of the all encompassing pandemic air is being released.

Maybe it’s because the Grands have had their first Pfizer shot. Maybe it’s because the numbers in Davidson County are trending down; the community prevalence of new Covid cases is 11.8 per 100,000 with 63% vaccinated! Not too shabby for our Blue dot in a Republican state. Before Bob and I leave the house, we think twice about masking up. Will we be going inside a large public space with lots of people? If so, I sling my happy mask lariat around my neck. But more and more, we are leaving the masks at home.

Our annual doctor visit was scheduled this week, instead of a remote consultation we actually drove to Vanderbilt for a face to face, the first time in two years. Masks were required in the hospital of course. Instead of a stylish pair of boots and long white coat, my wonderful GP was wearing scrubs. She had contracted coronavirus from a patient and had been very sick last year. Like the Bride and Groom, she must shower and decontaminate after every shift to protect her family, so scrubs it was.

I remembered the three words! Now we have to schedule blood work, and a mammogram. Just as the weather is shifting, we need to venture out more and more.

The highpoint of our outings was having dinner with a group of neighborhood friends INSIDE at a newly reopened local restaurant! The tornado that preceded the pandemic had demolished this iconic eatery, and they were finally having a last minute “soft” opening. I wrapped myself in a long puffy coat and we walked there in the dark, turning the corner to see party lights and hear the sound of laughter and bonhamie!

This must have been what it was like for the Flapper going to a speakeasy.

A waiter smuggled our little group into a private area, away from the bar and the noise. It was so so good, sharing food and drinks and stories, getting caught up, making plans for the future. Our masks were down, it was almost “normal.”

But I made the mistake of staying home the next morning and watching the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. It’s happening at the same time as the Ahmaud Arbery trial. Did you ever wonder why one trial is named after the armed murderer, and the other is named after the shooting victim, the man who was ambushed by a father and son. Do you wonder why one jury is not allowed to see a prior video of Rittenhouse outside a CVS talking about how he wished he had his gun so he could kill shoplifters…

While the other jury gets to see a prior video of an unarmed man, Arbery, walking through a home construction site?

This is a prime time lesson on institutional racism. If you are a Black man in this society, you must think three or four times before venturing outside for a jog, a walk, or a ride in your car. Because in some parts of this country, young white boys sling their AR 15s over their shoulders and drive with impunity across state lines to “defend” used car lots, because cars must matter more than people.

Objects in the rear view mirror

Hallelujah! The Grands got their first jab of the Pfizer vaccine against Covid 19. Sounds like I could write a country song about this day!

“Their daddy piled them in the car, drove for miles to a Walgreens store

Rolled up their sleeves with a great big smile, no tears, all style

They got the Pfizer Vaccine

Gonna help them fight off Covid 19″

Maybe I’ve been living in Nashville too long? But I swear I got all teary when I saw their little red band-aids on their arms. To celebrate, I cooked a big pot of goulash and offered free delivery since the Bride was working all weekend and the Groom was on dad duty. She had made plans for tacos, so we combined our Mexican/Hungarian menu to the delight of all.

Then I read this article about a different kind of immunity. It’s something for your brain that won’t let you end up at the other end of a rabbit hole.

“Here’s the idea: false, baseless, and destructive ideas are mind-parasites. Some are infectious and harm the minds that host them. But minds have defenses — “mental immune systems” — that offer some protection. These are natural systems, and we can study them like we do other natural systems. We can learn how they work and why they sometimes fail. Then, we can apply what we learn to prevent mental immune system breakdowns.

Cognitive immunologists are making strides. We’ve identified the mind’s antibodies. We know the basics of how mental immune systems work. (A healthy mind deploys questions and doubts to ward off problematic ideas; in unhealthy minds, this “mental immune function” is suppressed, misdirected, or hyperactive.)”

https://medium.com/@andynorman/why-arent-we-all-conspiracy-theorists-d14c7ac2b123

My Daddy Jim used to tell me on a drive in the country, that a large field of telephone poles is where they grow telephone poles. And I actually believed him, that phone poles shoot straight up out of the ground in their perfectly round-hewn condition. Because kids believe what their parents say for awhile, like ducking your head in the car when your dad drives under a bridge.

But eventually kids grow up and begin to doubt that a bridge could actually hit your head encased inside a car. They begin to separate their ideas from their parents, along with their music. But not everybody grows up in the same order, some take longer and some never quite get there. If a child grows up in a very strict, ‘my way or the highway’ house, they may never be allowed to wonder or ask questions.

This child may decide that he doesn’t eat Chinese food because he’s not Chinese because that’s what he’s heard in his house. And when another culture is feared or derided all the time, it multiplies xenophobia and hatred.

What if you grow up in a house that learns to make sushi, and doesn’t mind if your nana brings over pizza dogs for a birthday party even though your family has decided to be vegetarian. With some fish. In hindsight, I could have tried to make pizza fish sticks.

Our generation was the last to suffer with polio and measles. I studied deaf children in college, babies who were born deaf because their mothers contracted German measles during their pregnancies. Infants today are automatically vaccinated for Measles, Mumps and Rubella. But technology has helped spread some pretty medieval thinking around vaccine drives and public health with divisive ideologies; many being steeped in Anti-Semitism as I learned on CNN Lisa Ling’s “The Conspiracy Effect.” https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2021-10-06/lisa-ling-cnn-this-is-life-connects-hate-racism-in-american-history

Never, did I EVER expect to wake up this morning to see Big Bird getting cancelled by a Republican who looks like Uncle Fester. That sweet big yellow bird was telling parents and children to get vaccinated, you would think he was Big Brother telling us how to think. When the problem is too many people refuse to think, to analyze, to engage their brain. Too many have done “their own research” on Facebook. A place that will only amplify conspiracy thinking and science denial if it makes them more money.

We are not fighting a culture war with the Republicans. They would like us to define this gap in rational thinking as simply a cultural divide. But it’s not. There is no alternative view of the Holocaust. There are no chips being implanted in arms. Spreading false and misleading information and insisting we debate with them is insane. Our country must recover from a presidency that fed on conspiracy theories like it was manna from heaven.

We are better than that. Instead of spreading lies about children being trafficked, we can spread the word that vaccinations actually save lives. We can take back the conversation, and we must.

This week, we ate lunch inside a coffee shop! The Frothy Monkey is a Nashville staple, so I went big and ordered a rosemary latte to go with my avo toast. We were surrounded by 20-somethings on laptops, all socially distanced under a soaring ceiling. All mask-less. We felt like we were living on the edge – this was only the second time we tried eating within a restaurant, not just taking-out or dining en plein air, in 20 months.

It’s been 10 days since we received the Moderna booster. Although I was a bit achy, Bob felt fine, except for the thrashing the Democrats took on Tuesday. Our two beloved states, New Jersey and Virginia. NJ, the place where we fell in love, and VA the place where we built our first home and I started this blog looking out at the Blue Ridge. I couldn’t watch the returns, but we called Cousin Anita in Richmond to get the inside scoop.

It would seem McAuliffe misspoke, or maybe he just told the truth, and that’s what tanked him. He basically said that parents don’t write the curriculum, schools do…. which is true. Have you ever written a semester course on biosynthesis? But the spin from his opponent was all about parental control.

During an appearance on Meet the Press Sunday morning, Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe claimed that his statement at a recent debate against Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin that parents shouldn’t be involved in their children’s school curriculum received applause and support. When host Chuck Todd steered the discussion to parents objecting to inappropriate and politicized assigned books and materials, McAuliffe defended his comment at the debate, in which he said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

https://www.yahoo.com/now/mcauliffe-claims-everybody-clapped-argued-172127281.html

He doubled down.

When I first attended a school board meeting in NJ, I made the mistake of raising my hand. Little did I know that when you raise your hand, you get the job. I had something to say about their health classes, and it wasn’t good. If you know me, you know I didn’t mind them teaching my kids about birth control; the problem was what they weren’t teaching. They’d had no instruction on substance abuse and addiction. And I remember the look of bewilderment on the school board members’ faces, you know they had paid for some “Say No to Drugs” suitcase right, filled with materials…. and I said that may be true but my kids haven’t heard one iota…

until the board president said,”Oh, so you mean you want parents to be partners with us?”

I get where Terry McAuliffe was coming from, I really do. You don’t want parents to dictate a course on the Christian Bible in a public school, or to demand that their kids NOT wear a mask in the middle of a global pandemic. You don’t want parents threatening school board members. Thirty years ago, if a parent objected to a health class section dealing with birth control, they could opt their kids out. That little paper was among the hundreds of “first day of school papers,’ like the one giving the school permission to take their children on field trips.

But what the Republicans did in this last election is unconscionable. They want to ban a book by Toni Morrison. They took a college-level class about Critical Race Theory (CRT), and whipped up racist sentiment. They’d like to keep the Confederate Myth alive. The GOP would not want schools to write their own history curriculum – the party of ‘states rights’ promised parents that they were in control, that learning about slavery isn’t age-appropriate. Although every middle school curriculum includes a Holocaust segment

CRT is a non-existent, non-starter, Trojan horse of a curriculum that doesn’t even exist in elementary schools. Surprise, they made it up. The party that lies together under their orange leader, may just take back some power.

It’s time for that Blue Wave to get smart and start fighting. Voting rights and our entire planet are on the line; enough about so-called social issues and sports and bathrooms. This is an old playbook, distract and defend. We need a hero or a shero right about now, before our slide into authoritarianism is complete.

These wild and crazy days deserve discipline and courage! Bob and I are planning to go to our first movie next week in almost two years! Probably a matinee, but still. And in better breaking news, the Grands will get their first Covid vaccine this weekend. Are they too young to see the new Bond “No Time to Die” film in surround sound and technicolor?

Baby Yoda

Unreachable

Bob and I went to Temple on Friday night with our crew, including the Grands. It felt odd. We had to sign in, while people in masks tried making small talk. The Pumpkin was still in his Halloween costume from school, cape and all. He was looking forward to his birthday celebration. There were twins up on the bima who were going to be Bar and Bat Mitvah the next morning, and the Pumpkin joined them for a blessing since he was turning seven.

I haven’t been to a religious service in years, but on that night the Rabbi read Great Grandma Ada’s name along with others who had died at the end of October. In Judaism, Saturday was her yahrzeit, or the anniversary of the day she died, only one year ago. Time has been fractured. It seems to me like Ada is still here; there are so many times I want to call her, to tell her that Bob and I got our boosters, to ask her what she thinks of someone who is contemplating divorce. Divorce was a dirty word to her.

I want to tell her that the Love Bug is in Hebrew School and taking dance lessons again.

Ada would have loved this week’s Torah portion about Sarah. In the Bible, Sarah was the first Matriarch and she supposedly lived to the great old age of 127. And even though she was known as Abraham’s wife, I love that God commanded him: “Whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says.” That’s pretty much what Ada told Bob when we were married in her parking lot. The Rabbi’s sermon focused on the first part of the Torah portion, which happens to be Sarah’s death.

The homily however, was not about dying or an afterlife. Instead, it was about how we treat others while they are in mourning. That it is of no use to speak in platitudes, or make empty offers. I remembered once when Ada told me not to ask someone if they needed anything, just to bring it – and that usually meant food! If you are wondering, ‘should I call someone,’ call them! She coined “just do it” long before Nike.

The Rabbi reminded us that sometimes it’s best to just ask, “How are you doing today?”

Lately, we have all been in a collective state of mourning. Weddings and funerals have been postponed. Travel plans have been curtailed. A cousin had his Bar Mitzvah via Zoom. I stare at un-masked people in a grocery store with a feeling of wonder and disillusion. I smile at a baby behind my mask, and he just looks expectantly into my eyes, waiting for my smile. Why am I still feeling tenuous around people? Do I need to be saved?

This morning I read about how the Indigenous people of the Amazon have actually sued to keep missionaries OUT of their land!

With its estimated population of 6,300 Indigenous people, it’s considered the world’s largest repository of uncontacted peoples. On a planet with vanishingly few places beyond the reach of modern civilization, the valley’s enduring isolation has made it one of the most alluring places for evangelists trying to reach the last people to have never heard the name Jesus Christ. Missionaries call such people the “unreached.” 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/10/31/brazil-amazon-christian-missionary/

It was a well crafted essay. It relayed just the facts, about how this man/preacher thinks he is called to bring Jesus into the lives of native people in Brazil, how he thinks the world is going to end and he wants to “save” them. The absurdity of this was apparent, and it offended me. According to Amazon, the company, there have been over 2,500 gods in the world. So this particular god is better than that particular god? https://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Gods-Over-Deities-World/dp/0816029091

In Catholicism, we were not told to proselytize. Sure, in the past Jesuits traveled to new lands, but no longer. Jews, for the most part, don’t go around trying to convert other people, knocking on doors with pamphlets. Plus, the whole circumcision thing is a hard act to sell. To believe that one god is superior to the rest seems arrogant, if not dangerous.

November is Native American Heritage Month. There’s not a lot of time left to save Mother Earth. Leaders at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow have called climate change an existential crisis – “Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper… We are digging our own graves.” I hope the people of the Amazon Basin win their suit against missionaries, and remain unreachable.

And I hope this birthday boy gets vaccinated soon!

 

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